MURRAY — Since late last week, anticipation had been building in Murray and Calloway County for what was being billed as a major announcement concerning the community’s industrial prospects.
Still trying to shake the shock of the impending closing of the Briggs & Stratton plant for fall 2020, excitement was at a fever pitch. A new company was coming, meaning new job opportunities, perhaps for workers about to lose their positions at Briggs & Stratton.
So a large throng gathered Monday morning at the place where the announcement was hosted, the spec building inside the Murray West Industrial Park on the northern edge of the city limits. On a day of dreary, rainy weather, all was bright and sunny inside the spec building as the new facility’s new occupant was unveiled: TPG Plastics LLC.
Pavel Smyshlyaev, the chief financial officer of the company, received a quick introduction to how the community felt about it.
“Needless to say, seeing everybody here is very good for us,” Smyshlyaev said as he spoke to a crowd that was packed to the very back edge of the front entrance of the facility. “I obviously did not anticipate that there would be such a big crowd. When we first got here, I was looking around and started noticing, ‘Oh wow! There are a lot of cars here. Then I’m looking up the hill (going toward the DAE-IL auto parts plant that is located a short distance away) and I say, ‘Oh! OK. There’s a lot of people coming here for this.”
TPG is based in the Chicago area and was unveiled to be the company Murray-Calloway County Economic Development Corporation President Mark Manning has been describing for several weeks that began making inquiries about Murray as a possible place to expand its operations southward. He has said that a company from that area, in fact, began making calls within several hours of the Aug. 15 announcement that Briggs & Stratton would be closing the Murray plant. That plant has operated since 1985 at a facility downtown that had manufactured appliances for the Tappan company for many years before it closed in 1980.
“With that phone call, the folks on the other end of the line began asking about how many people were being displaced, what their skills sets were, and it became pretty clear very quickly that this was a serious phone call,” said Manning, who held firm to his commitment of refusing to uncover the identity of the new company until the very last second on Monday. It finally came in the form of him stepping to an easel supporting a rectangular piece of blue cardboard, then flipping it to unveil an artist rendering of the spec building, only with it emblazoned with the blue and white TPG logo on its front.
“This started, what, Pavel? Three months ago?” Manning said, receiving an acknowledging nod from Smyshlyaev. He then turned his attention to West Kentucky Workforce Development Board Director Sheila Clark. “When Mattel closed (in 2001), we were able to get Pella to come here in less than a year, so I think we’re trying to break a record, Sheila. But we are very, very proud and now we want to celebrate the fact that we have a new company here.”
TPG initially will be providing about 50 jobs at the Murray plant, but Smyshlyaev believes this number will expand quickly, based on TPG’s specialty, producing about 3 million containers annually for distribution nationwide to a variety of businesses, as well as a range of oil drain pans, funnels and other products that receive heavy everyday use.
In addition, the spec building will need to undergo expansion. Smyshlyaev said the current size of 62,000 square feet will need to grow to about 200,000 square feet eventually.
The office of Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin said Monday that TPG plans to invest $14.3 million that could create as many as 75 jobs in the future. A news release said TPG was formed in 2018 for the acquisition of the assets of The Plastics Group Inc. of Willowbrook, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. The Plastics Group, founded in 1998, was the successor to Borse Industries Inc. with roots dating back to the 1960s.
As for Murray’s jobs situation, Manning said he remains committed to continuing to cut the deficit left by the loss of Briggs & Stratton. That is leaving 630 workers displaced, though several have reportedly found new employment in other capacities since layoffs started in October.
“We won’t stop until that work is done,” he said.